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Game Preview: Islanders vs Penguins

The Isles go for an 11th-straight win, meet Penguins for first time since playoffs (7 p.m., MSG+)

by Sasha Kandrach KandrachSasha /





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The Islanders (11-3-0) have won 10-straight games for just the second time in franchise history and are in search of an 11th-straight win when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins. Thursday's game marks the first meeting between the teams since the Isles swept the Penguins in the first round of last year's playoffs.


- Semyon Varlamov was the first goalie off at morning skate. Varlamov is the projected starter to play against the Penguins. Varlamov has made seven starts this season and posted a record of 5-2-0, a goals against average of 2.14 and a save percentage of .929%. Varlamov recorded the Islanders first shutout of the season against as the Islanders beat Buffalo 1-0 on Nov. 2. 

- Jordan Eberle (lower body) and Nick Leddy (lower body) skated at morning skate, but willl not play against the Penguins. Neither Eberle nor Leddy has been cleared for contact yet. 

- Barry Trotz is familiar with the Penguins. During his four year tenure with the Caps, the Penguins handed Trotz and co. two Stanley Cup Playoffs exits in 2016 and 2017. So, he knows what to expect in the Isles first meeting with the Pens since sweeping them in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"You always remember last year because when you lose a series it leaves a bitter taste," Trotz said. "There's a little edge the next time you play. You've got maybe a little extra motivation, 'You got me maybe last year, but we'll get you this year' type of attitude. We understand that and i've been on both sides. I look at Pittsburgh as a very talented team and a good organization that plays very well. We've got a good rivarly with them."

- Otto Koivula and Seth Helgeson were recalled from Bridgeport as a precaution, as the Isles are down to 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen. Neither are expected to play. 

- Kris Letang did not participate in the Pens morning skate is unlikely to play against the Islanders after suffering a lower-body injury against the Bruins on Monday, via Pens Inside Scoop


-   The Isles' 10-game winning streak is the longest in the NHL this season and the second-longest in franchise history; the Isles won 15 straight games in 1982.

-   The Isles defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Tuesday night at their first game of the season at Barclays Center. Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Josh Bailey scored, while Cole Bardreau scored the game-winner and his first NHL goal. Thomas Greiss made 27 saves. 


-   Bardreau scored his first-career NHL goal, and the evening's game-winning goal, on a penalty shot. Bardreau is the second Islander rookie to convert a penalty shot as Tim Connolly did so on March 21, 2000 vs. Pittsburgh. Bardreau is the first to do so for his first NHL goal. Bardreau made his NHL debut on Oct. 19 against Columbus after Leo Komarov was ruled out with illness. Bardreau has two points (1G, 1A) through seven games with the Isles. 

-   Cizikas and Clutterbuck also scored their first goals of the season and were the primary assist on each other's goals. Cizikas has three points (1G, 2A) through nine games this season. Clutterbuck has four points (1G, 3A) through 14 games this season. Clutterbuck reached the 800-career NHL games milestone against Buffalo on Nov. 2. 

-   Bailey scored his sixth goal of the season and leads the Islanders in points with 12. 

-   Devon Toews registered his team-leading seventh assist on Clutterbuck's goal. Toews has nine points in 14 games. 

-   Derick Brassard's career-high five-game goal streak came to an end against the Sens. Brassard has seven points through 14 games played. This week, Brassard will face three (Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Florida) of his former teams in a row. 

-   Greiss made 27 saves to record his sixth win of the season. Through seven games this year, Greiss has a goals against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .937. Head Coach Barry Trotz has split the pipes between Greiss and Varlamov this season. Varlamov is the projected starter against the Pens. 

-   During the 10-game winning streak, the Isles have scored 31 of their 34 goals (91.2%) at even-strength. 

-   The Islanders (22 points) are second in the Metropolitan Division behind Washington (25). 

-   The Islanders lead the league in goals against with 30. 

-   The Isles power play is ranked 12th in the league with a percentage of 20.8%. Against the Sens, the Isles power play went 0-for-2. 

-   The Isles penalty kill is ranked 10th in the league with a percentage of 85.4%. Against the Sens, the Isles penalty kill went 4-for-4. 

Video: Islanders advance with sweep of Penguins


Through four meetings last season, the Islanders posted a record of 2-1-1 against the Penguins. The Isles claimed the first set of home-and-home games that took place early in the season with a 6-3 win on Oct. 30 and a 3-2 shootout win on Nov. 1. The Pens took the second meetings in December; topping the Isles 6-2 on Dec. 6 and 2-1 (SO) on Dec. 10.

That wasn't the sole meeting of the year, as the Metropolitan foes crossed paths again in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it was the Islanders who cleanly swept the Pens in four games and ushered Crosby the second First Round exit of his 15-year NHL career. 

The Islanders allowed six goals against in the four-game sweep and only trailed in 4:51 of the series. 

Video: Isles Practice: Preparing to Win


- The Penguins dropped a tough 6-4 decision to Boston on Monday evening. The Pens rallied from a three-goal deficit to take a 4-3 lead over Boston in the second period, but the Bruins came back in the third period to grab the two points. Dominic Kahun, Nick Bjugstad, Bryan Rust and John Marino scored in the loss. Matt Murray made seven saves in 24:22 before Tristian Jarry replaced him in net. Jarry had 12 saves during 34:37. 

-   Marino scored his first NHL goal in his hometown against the Bruins, as the rookie buried the breakaway past Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Marino has two points (1G, 1A) through 13 games this season. 

-   Kahun scored his third goal of the season on Monday and has four points (2G, 2A) in his past two games. 

-   Bjugstad scored his first goal of the season. Bjugstad missed nine games after suffering a lower-body injury on Oct. 5.

-   Rust scored his second goal of the year and has four points through four games. 

-   Sidney Crosby leads the Pens with 17 points (5G, 12A). Letang leads the Pens blueline in points with 12 (4G, 8A). 

-   Crosby's linemate Jake Guentzel leads the Pens with seven goals and has 13 points through 15 games. 

-   Evgeni Malkin played in his fourth game of the season against the Bruins and recorded his first assist of the year. Malkin was sidelined for 12 games with a lower-body injury, but returned on Nov. 2 against Edmonton. 

-   Letang left the third period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Letang's status against the Isles is TBD as he is being further evaluated. 

-   Murray has been the Pens go-to goaltender this season. In 12 games and 12 starts, Murray has compiled a record of 7-3-1, a goals against average of 2.35 and a save percentage of .917. 

-   Against the Bruins, the Penguins power play went 0-for-1. In the League, the Pens power play ranks 24th with a percentage of 14%. 

-   The Pens penalty kill went 3-for-3 against the Bs. In the NHL, the Pens PK is ranked sixth at 86.5%. 

-   Patric Hornqvist was placed on IR retroactive on Saturday with a lower-body injury. 

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